The Middle Paleolithic of Northern Hessen

Bifacial katzman

This is a slightly asymmetric Micoquian “Faustkeilblatt” (7 cm long) with a br0ken tip, made of quartzite from a field near the classic Middle Paleolithic site of Lenderscheid near Kassel / Germany, found in 1982.

Keilmesser (backed bifacial tools) together with Faustkeilblätter (artefacts with a finely retouched point, blunt base and one face which is flat and covering retouched), Halbkeile (elongated unifaces with a D-shaped cross-section), Fäustel (small bifaces (<6cm) and Blattspitzen (leaf points) are the hallmarks of the Central European Micoquian (Bosinski 1967; Richter 2009).

During the late Middle Paleolithic (after OIS 5e), bifacially worked tools play a substantial role in the archaeological record  both in Middle and West Europe.

Ruebens evaluated, if different technocomplexes, that have been described in the past (for example MTA, Central European Micoquian [Keilmesser Groups], Mousterian with small Bifaces, Bout de coupe handaxes…) are genuine entities in the archaeological record or merely an artificial creation caused by the application of different classificatory frameworks.

Ruebens found that:

  • Backed and leaf shaped bifacial tools only dominate east of the Rhine river
  • Classic MTA-handaxes (thin Cordiformes or triangular handaxes) only occur west of the Rhine River
  • The area of Belgium, the Netherlands and Northern France contains a more variable record of bifacial tools (a contemporary mix of both Mousterian and Micoquian bifacial tool types) indicating possible influences from both the east and west.
  • These regional trends cannot be linked to epistemological or classification issues and there-fore must represent genuine differences in Neanderthal behavior (Reubens 2007).

Although I agree with the essential results of Ruebens work, I would like to add that:

  • There are sites west of the Rhine within the “MTA” heartland with a clear Micoquian character (Mont de Beuvry, Abri du Musee at Les Eyzies with classic prodniks during OIS4 [?]), while the classic site of La Micoque should be excluded from any discussion, because it may be substantially older.
  • Classic MTA Handaxes were also found also East of the Rhine River (Selm-Ternsche,  Haltern I + II,  Bocholt, Heimsen in Westphalia;  Lenderscheid, Wahlen, Röhrsheim in Hessen; Scheden in Lower Saxony).
  • At the Hessian sites, MTA handaxes co-occur with typical Micoquian tools (Keilmesser, Faustkeilblätter, and Blattspitzen). Although these ensembles were not found in an intact stratigraphy up to now, this  association near other sites with “pure” Micoquian ensembles ( for example: Buhlen upper settlement place) remains remarkable and indicates that “mixed ensembles” are not confined to the Netherlands, Belgium and Northern France. But contrary to the W-European sites these “mixed ensembles” were found within “heartland” of the Middle European Micoquian.
  • One of the problems with these ensembles is the fact, that we do not know for sure, if they really represent contemporary artifact associations and if they were contemporaneous to “pure” Micoquian ensembles.

“Broken” Blattspitzen from Röhrsheim: Malgorzata Kot recently argued, that  intentional tool fracturing i was a common strategy among the  the earliest Middle Palaeolithic leaf point industries in Europe (Rörshain, Lenderscheid, Wahlen, Sajóbábony) . Scar pattern analyses conducted on these assemblages show that breakages appeared in such tools in the middle of their manufacturing process and not at the end. Some of the pieces were shaped actually only after the breakage.


Keilmesser from Buhlen:

Suggested Reading:



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About Katzman

During my whole life I was fascinated by stone age artefacts. Not only the aesthetic qualities of these findings, but also the stories around them and the considerations arising from their discovery, are a part of my blog. Comments and contributions are allways welcome! About me: J.L. Katzman (Pseudonym). Born in Vienna. Left Austria in 1974 and did not regret. Studied Medicine and Prehistory at a German University. Member of a Medical Department at a German University. Copyright 2010-2017 by JLK. All Rights Reserved. You are welcome to use material in these posts so long as you cite the work.
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3 Responses to The Middle Paleolithic of Northern Hessen

  1. Karen Ruebens says:

    I have come across your blog several times and have always enjoyed reading your knowledgeable posts on the Late Middle Palaeolithic and its great photos of lithic artefacts. I was therefore happy to see you mentioned my PhD research in your post of 13/03. Many of the comments you mention I have incorporated in my PhD thesis; Late Middle Palaeolithic bifacial tools are indeed a complex phenomenon with much variation. In recent talks, posters and summaries (see also next BSPF) I have focussed on the main macro-regional tripartite, which I see as an overarching framework with space for further internal variation, like you mention with the sporadic occurrence of MTA and KMG elements elsewhere. Overall it seems a very complex phenomenon and one of the main aims of my work was to provide a data-driven, large-scale intercomparison across Western Europe, overcoming past epistemological issues and incorporating lesser studied areas. I’m hoping it will trigger further debate on bifacial tool variability and regional variation and therefore feedback like in your blog post is very useful. My thesis will become available soon through the university of Southampton eprints website and I also recently submitted a summary paper for publication. I hope you have also read my Ruebens-Di Modica 2011 paper which is available through academia?
    I look forward to reading more of your very interesting blog posts.
    With kind regards,

  2. Katzman says:

    Thank you for the nice feedback. As an amateur I am always happy to get in touch with professionals in the field of prehistory. I have a special interest in your work, because you are one of the few persons, who try to overcome research traditions across Europe concerning the Middle Paleolithic. I am looking forward with great interest to your e-thesis just to learn more about this topic.

  3. Ken Johnston says:

    I am an amateur archaeologist in Ohio, USA. I have identified some suspected tool forms here which have not been accounted for by American archaeologists. They will not even consider them (because they were not in their college textbooks). My interest is in Palaeoart and when I find suspected iconographic pieces they are often associated with rocks demonstrating similar repeating patterns. I found the image of the Faustkeilblatt on your site here and immediately recognize it as a form found in relatively large numbers in my locality. I have provided a link to my most recent blog post showing an “American Faustkeilblatt” and other forms from a 1 meter area. I would appreciate any observations you can share about these objects and their possible relations to the “old world.” I understand lithic forms can persist for tens/hundreds of thousands of years but I am curious if I might be on to some Mode 3 type artifacts here in the States. Thanks for a great web site.

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